Tooth Brushing Resistance – How to Teach Your Child That Brushing Can Be Fun!

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Photo of a teething child

Teaching your child to take care of their teeth is just one way you can show them how to take responsibility for their body.  This can be a challenge because toddlers are motivated mainly by fun and pleasure, not by health and necessity.  If you want to end your child’s resistance to brushing, your best bet is to make this chore a fun ritual for them.  They will eventually catch on that brushing their teeth is a regular and necessary part of taking care of their whole body—and they’ll enjoy doing it.  Here are some tricks you can use to make it fun!

Make the toothbrush a toy.  Let them play with it (not by running around with it in their mouth).  Most kids will “play” with a toothbrush by biting or sucking on it, but doing so will help them get used to having a toothbrush in their mouth.  There are some electric toothbrushes that play songs.   There are cool smart phone apps (Disney, Brusheez, Chomper Chums, etc.).  Create the impression that tooth brushing is fun.

Play show and tell.  While you are showing your child how to “play” with the toothbrush, talk about the “sticky stuff” that collects on all of our teeth.  Tell them about the “sugar bugs” that will cause holes in their teeth and make them so they are not strong and white.  If you have a cavity that is filled or crowned, show it to your child to reinforce this point.  Show them how to brush their teddy bear’s “teeth,” or even let them brush yours!

Play copycat.  Capitalize on a toddler’s natural desire to mimic fun activities they see.  Bring them into the bathroom with you to watch you brush your teeth.  Be sure to lay out their toothbrush where they can reach it.  While you are brushing, exaggerate a show of excitement.  They’ll likely be encouraged to copy what you’re doing.

Open a toddler-friendly “book”.  Your local library (or Amazon.com) has many children’s books with “dental hygiene” storylines (Berenstain Bears, Dr. Seuss, etc.).  If your child learns better by visualizing, there are many excellent tooth brushing videos available on YouTube.  Sharing this information with them will make dental hygiene fun, familiar and non-threatening.

When nothing else will work.  Take advantage of your child’s normal environmental “restraints” such as a high-chair, a bathtub ring or another parent’s lap to gain access to his mouth.  Even if they cry a bit, you will gain better visualization of his mouth.   Your goals would be to quickly inspect, brush and reinforce the importance of this routine.  Toothpaste does not necessarily need to be used at this young age.  Flossing can be introduced later as they become accustomed to the tooth brushing ritual.

An ounce of prevention.  As a parent, you have control of your child’s diet.  Minimizing sugary drink consumption and ensuring that they never go to bed with any drink other than water will help prevent cavities before they start.

Worst Behaviors for Your Teeth

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There are a number of common habits that can cause harm to your teeth that you may not know about. For example, drinking certain beverages, chewing on things like ice or popcorn kernels, smoking, and lip or tongue piercings.

Casual everyday things, such as, not wearing a mouth guard, hard bristled brushes and using your teeth to open things can damage your teeth in many ways.

picture of custom night guard

Ask about a custom mouth guard at your next visit!

  • Mouth guards are recommended for anyone participating in contact sports. They protect your teeth from cracks and fractures.
  • Tongue or lip piercings can chip and crack your teeth. They can also contribute to gum recession, this is when gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, potentially leaving root surface of the tooth exposed.
  • Smoking and chewing tobacco can cause and worsen periodontal disease (gum disease), which can lead to tooth loss.
  • Hard bristled brushes and brushing too hard can cause gum recession too, revealing a softer layer of your teeth that erodes easier than enamel. Soft or extra soft toothbrushes are a better option.
  • Using your teeth as tools to tear open things like bags or bottles can fracture or crack your teeth.
  • Grinding your teeth can cause wear, fractures, and jaw pain. A night guard can help with nighttime grinding.
  • Lemons are acidic, and if you make it a habit to suck on them often they can erode the enamel on your teeth, causing cavities.
  • Cough drops can be as harmful to your teeth as hard candy. Many cough drop brands have high levels of sugar. When that sugar breaks down it results in acid that can eat away at your teeth.
  • Chewing on non-food items like pens or pencils, biting your nails and chewing ice can all lead to fractures or cracks. Chewing sugarless gum is a better option if you need to chew on something.
  • photo of sugary and acidic foods and beveragesSugary beverages like soda, sports drinks, and fruit juices promote the growth of bacteria that leads to sensitivity and decay. Diet soda may seem like the healthier option, as it is lower in sugar, but it is also acidic and can cause cavities.

Delicious Healthy Summer Recipes

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One of our hygienists wanted to share a couple of her favorite summer recipes!

Lemon Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan

Makes: 6 Servings

Prep Time: 5 Minutes

Cook Time: 25 Minutes

Ingredients:

2 bunches of Asparagus, ends snapped off

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, lightly crushed and peeled

Zest (in long strips) and juice of 1 lemon

3/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1/4 oz. shaved Parmesan

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a roast pan, toss the asparagus with the oil, garlic, lemon zest, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes. Roast 20 to 25 minutes, tossing occasionally, until browned. Drizzle lemon juice to taste over asparagus, then transfer to a serving dish, discarding lemon zest and garlic. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Serve.

 

 

Spicy Hoisin-Glazed Turkey Meatballs

Makes: 6 Servings

Prep Time: 15 Minutes

Cook Time: 10 Minutes

Ingredients:

Nonstick cooking spray

1/4 cup diced red onion

1/2 pound ground turkey

1 egg white, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons plain, dried bread crumbs

3/4 teaspoon sesame oil

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Black pepper, to taste

1/4 cup Hoisin sauce

1/4 teaspoon sriracha hot sauce, or to taste

Juice from 1/2 an orange

Fresh cilantro sprigs (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil and mist with cooking sprays. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the onion and boil 1 minute. Drain in a sieve and let cool.

In a bowl, combine onion with the turkey, egg white, bread crumbs, sesame oil, and garlic powder. Season with black pepper and stir until combined.

Scoop out slightly rounded teaspoons of the turkey mixture, roll into 3/4-inch meatballs and place on prepared backing sheets. (Dampen hands before handling meatballs, as mixture will be sticky)

Whisk together the Hoisin and sriracha in a small bowl. Spoon about 1/4 teaspoon of the glaze over each meatball. Placing baking sheets in the oven, and bake until meatballs are cooked through, about 6 to 7 minutes.

Remove from oven. Preheat broiler: broil meatballs, watching carefully, until glaze is sizzling, 1 to 2 minutes. Drizzle orange juice over meatballs and transfer to platter. Garnish with cilantro if desired, skewer with toothpicks and serve.

 

Why are you pulling on my tongue and what are you looking for?!

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Cancer – the uncontrolled growth of cells that invade and cause damage to surrounding tissue. Unfortunately, the frequency of oral cancer is on the rise – 100 new cases per day in the United States are being reported – one person every hour of every day will die from it. Risk factors include use of tobacco and alcohol and most recently determined, some strains of HPV (human papilloma virus), but within the last 5 years cases are increasing in males and females under age 50 with no risk factors. The fatality rate for oral cancer is one of the highest due to lack of detection before it spreads to other parts of the body.

The best tool we have to fight these results is early detection. To provide the highest standard of care for our patients, we perform an oral cancer screening at the time of our exams. Mostly this is a visual examination of the tongue, lips, and soft and hard tissues. The panoramic x-ray also gives us an overall picture of abnormalities of the hard tissues.

cancer screening process

Photo obtained from http://www.beverlyheightsdental.com/oral-cancer-screening.

What are we looking for? Any changes in appearance of tissue in the oral cavity including patches of red, white or ulcerations. Also any swelling or lumps, rough patches or a white film that can’t be wiped off. Many benign lesions look the same as cancer in the beginning stages, so at what point should you be concerned? The rule of thumb is most non-cancerous conditions will heal within 14 days. We may ask you to monitor any area we show you or have you return to see us in 2 weeks to re-evaluate. At this point if the condition continues, a biopsy may be recommended.

Many patients visit their dentist more regularly than their physician, so receiving this cancer screening is a vital part of keeping us healthy.

Sip, Snack, Cavities!

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photo of sugary and acidic foods and beveragesSummer is here and we know the hot weather will keep you thirsty, but before you head to the cooler, you may want to rethink what ice cold drink you are reaching for!

Did you know??

  • The sugar from the drinks you choose mixes with the bacteria in your mouth to form acid.
  • Sugar free drinks often have acid added to them in the form of phosphoric acid, citric acid, malic acid, and many others.
  • The acid from these drinks attacks your teeth for up to 20 minutes for each sip you take, weakening your tooth enamel in the process!

You may be thinking avoiding soda will take care of this pesky problem, but think again! Soda is not the only drink that can be harmful. Other drinks that can be sugary or acidic include:

  • Dairy milk
  • Soy milk
  • Energy drinks
  • Protein shakes
  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Tea
  • Smoothies
  • Fruit juice
  • Sports drinks
  • and many more!

So with sugar or acid in most beverages these days, how do you minimize the damage this causes?

  • Drink sugary/acidic drinks in moderation.
  • Don’t sip on these types of beverages all day long; drink them with a meal instead.
  • Use a straw.
  • Swish with water after drinking these beverages.
  • Never drink sugary/acidic drinks right before bed.
  • Brush your teeth after each meal or beverage.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste.
  • Drink water instead.
  • Get regular cleanings and checkups at the dentist to catch any issues early on.

Missing a tooth? What are your options?

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A missing tooth can be troubling, to say the least. So, we asked one of our assistants to give us a quick summary of some of the options available to replace your missing tooth!

Full or partial dentures are one option to replace missing teeth. This option is typically best for anyone missing several or all of their teeth. A partial denture is removable. Teeth are inserted on the partial denture where your teeth are missing. Clasps are placed on the partial denture that hook around your natural teeth to hold it in place. A full denture is also removable and gives you a custom-made full set of new teeth! Full and partial dentures can typically be finished in one month, but if extractions and healing time are needed, the process may be longer.

A bridge is another option for replacing one missing tooth, and in some cases two teeth. This is a fairly quick procedure and can generally be completed within a few weeks as long as there are not any teeth that need to be extracted; extra time may be needed for healing after extracting a tooth if the tooth wasn’t previously missing. A bridge is a fixed appliance, meaning that it is permanent. Crowns are put on the teeth on each side of the missing tooth, as anchors. An artificial tooth is connected to the anchors and sits in place where your missing tooth was. The bridge is permanently cemented to your teeth.

Another permanent option is a dental implant. These can be used to replace just one or multiple teeth. An implant, typically made of titanium and looks kind of like a screw, is placed in the jaw bone and the procedure is completed by a specialist. A healing period of 4-6 months is typical once the implant is placed. An abutment looks like a smaller version of an artificial tooth that connects the implant to the crown, and can usually be placed on the implant by your general dentist. An impression is taken to create the permanent crown that will be attached to the abutment. The crown is the piece that looks like a real tooth. Although dental implants are higher in cost and require more time to complete, once completed, you are able to treat the dental implant like you would a regular tooth!

WHY ARE MY TEETH SO SENSITIVE?

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As a hygienist, I am asked daily what a patient can do about sensitive teeth. First, we need to understand the basics of what may cause tooth sensitivity.

Recession is the most common cause I find here at the office. Recession can be described as an area near the gum line of a tooth where the gums have “pulled away” or receded from the tooth. This process exposes the root of the tooth, causing several nerve endings to be exposed. If you look closely, you can sometimes see a yellow or dark gray color where the root is exposed. As a result, brushing the area, eating sweets and drinking cold fluids can lead to sensitivity. It is often described as a “zingy” or “electrical shock” feeling.

Normal teeth with no recession present

Teeth without recession present. The gums cover the entire root of the tooth.

Tooth with recession causing sensitive tooth

Tooth with recession present. You can see the slight difference in color where the root is exposed.

photo of recession

Another example of teeth with recession present. You can see the yellowish tint where the root is exposed.

Opalescense home whiteningIn home and in office teeth whitening systems can also cause short term sensitivity. The reason for this sensation during and shortly after whitening is because the dentinal “tubules” or channels we have in our teeth are opened temporarily during the process. It is the movement of fluid within those tubules that are close to the pulp that causes sensitivity. A few days after whitening is completed, these tubules close up again and the sensitivity typically goes away.

In both of these cases, sensitive tooth paste is typically your best first line of defense. Sensitive toothpastes have an ingredient called potassium nitrate that works to plug those nerve endings and block any sensations that you may feel. These sensitive pastes work best if you use them every morning and night. They are accumulative, meaning their effectiveness builds up over time. The longer you use it, the more effective it is. Using sensitive toothpaste in the morning and a different paste at night will not give you the same outcome. Whitening tooth pastes as well as tartar control pastes are not typically recommended for use with sensitivity. They both contain very abrasive particles that can scratch your root surfaces and add to the sensitivity. Extra soft bristled brushes and electric brushes are recommended when a patient has sensitivity due to recession. Oral B or Sonicare brushes have great technology that help prevent brushing too hard and causing more recession.

electric toothbrush, soft toothbrush, sensitive toothpaste

There is also a great product that our office has tried with patients called Crest Sensi-Stop Strips. These work by placing a strip on the recession area for 10 minutes. It uses an ingredient called Oxalate that forms a barrier over recession areas. Many patients have found these to work well to relieve sensitivity.

If sensitivity is severe due to recession, and the recession has increased since we’ve seen you last, a referral to a periodontist may be needed. In some instances they can perform a gingival graft to strengthen what gingiva is left and in some cases can increase your root coverage.

As a last resort, a filling can be placed at the sensitive site. Typically, we avoid this if we can because any filling requires some of the tooth structure to be taken away before the filling can be placed. This can, however, help with sensitivity in those rare cases that other options are unable to help.

Other forms of sensitivity can come from erosion of the teeth, tooth grinding, and broken teeth. These sensitivities should be brought to the attention of your hygienist and dentist, as they may need to be addresses with a more comprehensive exam and other types of treatment.

Common Issues with Children’s Teeth

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Erin Registered Dental Hygienist Family Dentist Tree

Erin
Registered Dental Hygienist
Family Dentist Tree

There can be A LOT of questions when it comes to a child’s teeth. Are they coming in right? Are they too crowded? Why did my child’s tooth turn gray? These can be difficult to understand without an exam with a dentist, but we asked our hygienist, Erin, to give us an idea of some of the more common issues with children’s teeth. Here is what she had to say:

 

Trauma/Tooth Discoloration: If a trauma has occurred, such as a fall or being hit in the mouth with an object, and the child’s front teeth have been hit, the damaged tooth/teeth may change color to a gray or black shade. Typically, only one tooth is affected and the discoloration is caused by a short period of internal bleeding within the tooth. Trauma may also cause the tooth to start resorbing the nerve or pulp chamber. Resorption is when the body removes mineralized tissue within the tooth, resulting in a loss of part or all of the tooth’s scructure. If the tooth is not bothering the child and there are no signs of infection (indicated by a bump or pimple type lesion near the root of the tooth or in the gum tissue and/or pus present) the most common recommendation is to leave the tooth as is until it falls out on its own. This helps “hold” the place for the permanent tooth that will replace it.

Decay: Early decay in your child’s baby teeth may be caused by a variety of things, such as poor brushing habits, lack of fluoride, genetics and ‘baby bottle decay.’

Poor brushing: Many people don’t know that brushing should begin before an infants baby teeth begin erupting. Using a damp towel or cloth to clean your infant’s gum tissue will help remove any plaque that is acquired during feeding. Creating a routine with a toddler will help make sure all areas of their teeth are being properly cared for.  Letting the child brush first and then taking turns and helping concentrate on molar teeth and gum line areas will help prevent plaque from forming in these areas.

Baby Bottle Decay: This is classified as a wide spread decay caused from milk, pop or juice in a bottle or sippy cup that is left for the child to sip on throughout the day or that is sent to bed with them. When this happens, the sugar is allowed to sit on the teeth for long periods of time, which in turn causes decay. This type of decay mainly affects the upper front teeth, upper and lower molars, and the lower canine teeth. It is characterized by brown colored cavities toward the gum line. These areas may begin as white demineralized areas that have a chalky type appearance.

Grinding: Grinding is most common in children ages 4-8 and 10-14 when the primary and permanent teeth are coming through and the different heights of the teeth cause a feeling of unbalance. The child’s instinct (which is most common while the child is sleeping) is to grind the teeth together to create a more uniform feeling. If the grinding continues into adulthood, once all permanent teeth are fully erupted, a night guard may be recommended to maintain the health and shape of the teeth.

Anterior Supernumary Teeth: This is the presence of extra teeth and is most common in the upper arch and more likely to occur in males. This is most commonly diagnosed using a panorex x-ray that shows all erupted and un-erupted teeth. If left untreated the extra tooth (or teeth) may affect the eruption and/or development of the permanent teeth.

Malocclusion: How a child’s teeth fit together when they bite is evaluated at each visit. The lower jaw can protrude or retrude, causing the teeth to bite together in an unideal way. While children have all of their baby teeth, the bite is most commonly monitored until the eruption of permanent teeth begins. A referral to an orthodontist may be made at this time to continue monitoring the eruption of the permanent molars and pre-molars, so early intervention can be made at the proper time. If left untreated, the teeth may be more at risk for breaking, fracturing, or wearing abnormally. The teeth that are out of alignment may be also more difficult to clean, and can cause gingivitis (inflammation and bleeding of the gums), and difficulty eating or speaking.

Tips For Fresh Breath

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If you have bad breath, you are not alone! Many of our patients deal with this, so we asked our hygienists to provide some tips to help you keep your breath feeling fresh!

  • Be sure to brush thoroughly for two minutes, twice per day. Be sure you brushing thoroughly around your back teeth (molars) where plaque and bacteria that can cause bad breath can more easily hide.Photo of toothbrushing
  • Floss thoroughly once daily to get that pesky plaque and bacteria that hides between your teeth!
  • Rinse with Listerine or Crest Pro-Health mouthwash. Both are proven to kill bacteria in the mouth.
  • Brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper when you brush.
  • Visit your dentist every 6 months, or as often as recommended to keep plaque at a minimum.
  • Use an electric toothbrush.

    photo of an electric toothbrush

    The Sonicare FlexCare Platinum is our most popular electric toothbrush!

  • Try sugar-free gum or breath mints.
  • Rinse your mouth with water after meals or snacks. This will keep food from hanging around and developing bacteria.
  • Use a WaterPik to remove food debris in between your teeth if flossing isn’t doing the trick.
  • Eat a healthy diet, and watch what foods you eat. Foods like garlic and onions contribute to bad breath.
  • Try using Breath Rx products (toothpaste, mouth rinse/spray, mouthwash).
  • Drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated. Dry mouth is one of the things that can contribute to bad breath.
  • Stop smoking or using chewing tobacco.
  • Consult your physician. Sometimes bad breath can be due to acid reflux or a sinus infection.